By Melina Paris, Arts and Culture Reporter
There is no arguing that black filmmakers, not only — but especially — of late have created compelling, urgent and timely films all while keeping audiences engaged and entertained. Highlighting some of the best of these films, it is once again time for the Pan African Film Arts Festival, February 11 through 23.
We’d be remiss not to mention the number of quality music documentaries PAFF is featuring this year, at least eight from hip hop to jazz and dance, all worth your time to look into.
A few films viewers should look for at the festival are the following:
Feature Documentary: Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools
Directed by: Jacoba Atlas
Screening Times: 6:35 p.m. Feb. 13, 1 p.m. Feb. 17, 9:50 p.m. Feb. 21
An indictment of the criminalization and miseducation of African American girls that has led to their alarming high school dropout rate and increase into the juvenile justice system. Schools, throughout the country, have become a key entry point into the juvenile justice system with Black girls being the fastest growing population in this system. Pushout tells the story through the eyes of the girls themselves from elementary to post high school and explores the many reasons for this increase in the criminalization of Black girls from paternalistic juvenile courts who do not understand the unique challenges these girls face, a lack of community based, culturally competent and gender sensitive responses to the way girls of color are perceived by mainstream society is often at the root of this push to criminalize our young people. This criminalization of Black girls disrupts one of the most important protective factors in a girl’s life “education”.
Update: Pushout inspired legislation called “Ending PUSHOUT Act” sponsored by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley.
Feature Documentary: Always in Season
~ Sundance, U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Moral Urgency
Directed by: Jacqueline Olive
Screening Times: 3:30 p.m. Feb. 14, 11 a.m. Feb. 16
At the height of their popularity, lynchings attracted tens of thousands of white men, women, and children spectators. They were public events. Lynching was like the sport of hunting, and black people were “always in season.”
Always in Season follows Claudia Lacy as she moves from paralyzing grief to leading the fight for justice for her son, Lennon, who in 2014, was found hanging from a swing set in rural North Carolina. Lacy’s search for justice and reconciliation begins while the trauma of more than a century of lynching African Americans bleeds into the present. Lennon’s case intersects with stories of other communities committed to breaking the silence of their own recent histories and leading the way to justice.
Always in Season asks what will it take for Americans to build a national movement for racial justice and reconciliation?
Feature Documentary: The Great Green Wall
Directed by: Jared P. Scott
Screening Times: 7:20 p.m. Feb. 21, 12:15 p.m. Feb. 23
Singer Inna Modja travels across the edge of the Sahel region of Africa where the plan is to build a green wall of trees and vegetation against climate change and drought. One look at the preview of this film presents a deep explanation of the measures taken by people in this region and their commitment to, not just survival but life with a positive impact going forward for themselves and future generations.
Feature Documentary: The Gathering – Roots & branches of Los Angeles Jazz
Directed by Thomas Page
Screening Times: 7:15 p.m. Feb. 16, 1 p.m. Feb. 18, 9:35 p.m. Feb. 23
This documentary feature is a great celebration of Los Angeles Jazz.
In 2005, bandleader Jesse Sharps led a summit and recording session bringing together young players from the LA improvised music scene with the local legends who have moved the zeitgeist of LA jazz forward with a powerful impact, Azar Lawrence, Dwight Trible, Kamau Daaood, Michael Sessions, Ndugu Chancler, Phil Ranelin, Roberto Miranda, and Taumbu Ector. Members of Horace Tapscott’s Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra participated along with a younger set of the acclaimed LA music vanguards, Kamasi Washington, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Brandon Coleman, Randal Fisher, Nick Rosen, and Joey Dosik.
The Gathering documents local Los Angeles area talent and composers with a focus on giving young players a venue to share their compositions. Further, it features exceptional works from the archives of The Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra, African American composers, and others that have gone under the radar over the years. The band continues to evolve and attract new players, stretching the boundaries of improvised music and performance.
Cast: Jesse Sharps, Kamau Daaood, Dwight Trible, Kamasi Washington, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Phil Ranelin, Randal Fisher, Roberto Miranda, Peter Jacobson
Short Documentary: Diatribe: from the Village to the Streets
Directed by: AJ Wone
Screening Times: 9:20 p.m. Feb. 13, 2:25 p.m. Feb. 16
The word diatribe is defined as “a bitter, sharply abusive denunciation, attack, or criticism.” An ongoing diatribe is one of the perceptions and identity notions between Africans born on the continent and Africans born in the Americas, raised in a Western-influenced mindset and society. With such a distance spanning the continents, culture and connection are two gaps that have been widened over generations.
One cultural connection that hasn’t suffered is the evolution of African rhythm and its ancestral power deep within the foundation of hip-hop.
The PAFF Centerpiece
A trifecta of entertainment, PAFF’s marquee experiences boast Opening Night, Centerpiece and Closing Night festivities with A-list celebrities, industry tastemakers, community leaders and special invited guests. Centerpiece events will include red carpets, exclusive film screenings and festive after-parties.
Opening night, Hero
Directed By: Frances-Anne Solomon
Screening Times: Red Carpet: 6 p.m., Screening: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11
HERO is inspired by the revolutionary life and times of Trinidad and Tobago citizen, diplomat and judge Ulric Cross, the most decorated West Indian of World War II. After his service Cross went on to play an active and important role in the Pan African Movement, which led to the creation of the 28 modern Caribbean and 54 modern African nations. This movement influenced U.S. domestic policy towards African Americans, inspired the Civil Rights movement and black power movements and the rise of Black consciousness
Cost: $105 for single ticket or $200 for two
Venue: Directors Guild of America, Theater Complex, 7920 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles
Spotlight Screening, The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Directed By: Joe Talbot
A young black man searches for home both spiritually and materially in the changing city that seems to have left him and his people behind. Jimmie Fails dreams of reclaiming his grandfather’s home in the heart of San Francisco. Q&A and discussion will follow with Jimmie Fails and Danny Glover; Damien Goodmon of Crenshaw Subway Coalition and Jasmyne Cannick, political strategist. Moderated by KJLH’s Dominique DiPrima and Ayuko Babu.
Best Independent Film, African-American Film Critics Association; New Generation Award, Los Angeles Film Critics Association
Time: 7 p.m. Feb. 12
Venue: Cinemark BHC 15, 3650 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Los Angeles
Closing Night, Zulu Wedding
Directed By: Lineo Sekeleoane
Lou left South Africa and her Zulu-Sotho heritage behind to become a dancer in America. She falls in love with an African American man named Tex but after bringing him home to meet her family, she discovers she’s been promised since birth to a Zulu king.Nondumiso Tembe
Time: 6 p.m. Red Carpet, 7 p.m. Feb. 23
Venue: Cinemark BHC 15, 3650 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Los Angeles
Short Documentary: 3rd Street
Directed by: Mason Foster
–Feature Documentary: Skin
Directed by: Daniel Etim Effiong
–Documentary, Another Red, White, Black & Blue Odyssey
Directed by: James Brown
–Short Documentary: HBCU Storytellers: Confederate Monuments-Heritage or Hatred
Directed by: Brian Favors, Chad Gobar & James Hadgis
~ Official Film Selection by State of Virginia’s 400 Year Commemoration Committee
The PAFF ArtFEST, rooted in Africa and its diaspora features established and emerging fine artists and craftspeople from around the world. Featured artists at PAFF present creative works using oil on canvas, watercolor and pastels, acrylic paper, glass, ceramics, metal, cloth, plastic, wax, wire, leather and stone.
Details: 310-337-4737; www.paff.org